The Dos and Don´ts of learning Spanish in Spain

Prior to arriving in Spain I knew 7 words in Spanish. This included the words Hola, Gracias, and the phraze “mi casa es su casa” which I had heard somewhere through popular culture. That was it. My entire knowledge of the Spanish language prior to coming to this country. After around 2.5 months in Spain in total, I am glad to say my Spanish has improved somewhat compared to what it was, but I do not know nearly as much as I would have liked to after all this time. My Spanish certainly could be better had I not made some major mistakes along the way in my bid to learn. It is with that in mind that I have created this Dos and Don’ts list of learning Spanish in Spain, both as a means to pass on the tips that helped me learn along the way, but also as a way to help other people avoid my mistakes… of which there were many.

Do

  • Go to Spain, or another Spanish speaking country to learn. You need to be using the language you learn each day in real situations if you want to remember it, and talking to locals to get your ear accustomed to the fast paced Spanish language with all it’s different accents.
  • Try pick up some of the basics before you go. It really does make things a lot easier even just knowing a little bit before you come.
  • Make friends with locals, or other people who speak Spanish, and get them to speak to you in it everyday.
  • Write down any words you don’t know that you hear or read somewhere, and when you go home that day look them up in your dictionary.
  • Carry a mini-Spanish to English dictionary with you at all times to help you when you get stuck out and about.
  • Get a native Spanish speaking boyfriend or girlfriend. Same purpose as finding local Spanish speaking friends except you’ll have more motivation to learn Spanish this way, and they can teach you words you won’t learn in Spanish class! 😉
  • Set at least an hour aside each day to go over any new words you’ve learned, and to learn some new vocabulary. I didn’t do this nearly enough when I was in Spain!
  • Find out if there are any places to learn Spanish for FREE where you are (ask locals, tourist information, or local council). I opted to learn independently when I first arrived into Seville because the language schools were charging a fortune. I found out on my 2nd last day however, that there was a place I could have learned for FREE! This sucked big time. There might not be a place in your area, but it’s worth doing all the research first because why pay money or struggle on your own when there is a course you can go to for free? I don’t know if it will be as good as the paid courses or not, but you could always do a paid course after if you like too, and get in some extra learning beforehand that doesn’t cost a penny
  • Do put the hours in. At the end of the day, the more time you put into the learning, the more you will get out of it. The most common reason why many people fail to get fluent in a foreign language, I believe, is because of a lack of motivation.

Don’ts

  • Don’t live in a house, apartment, hostel, or hotel with other native English speaking people! I made the mistake of doing this, and ended up just conversing all the time in English when I was at home. Even if you think you will still talk in Spanish, there will be moments when you get lazy. If there are only Spanish speaking people around you though, then this forces you to talk in the language at all times, and you therefore learn much quicker.
  • Don’t stop practicing. I found in my personal experience, in the very beginning I was extremely motivated. After the first few weeks though, that motivation began to lull a bit. I also had commitments with work, and was also wanting to get away from the books for a bit and outside. You have to try ride through that lull after the honeymoon period wears off, and just keep going. Of course, you should take breaks, and don’t burn yourself out, but make sure to keep a consistent study schedule, and stick to it!
  • Don’t stop learning once you get back home. One thing I am glad at is since I’ve got home I’ve actually continued to work on my Spanish. I have much less exciting distractions here, and to be honest, I’ve probably learned more at home this last week than I have the previous 2 or 3 in Spain simply because I’ve really put the effort in. Also, having had time to come home and digest everything, as I am learning things are beginning to click, that I seen, experienced, or heard while in Spain, but have only sunk in now that I’ve come home and picked up the books.

I hope these dos and don’ts help anyone new to learning Spanish or a foreign language to make the most of their time learning. As for me, I am continuing to learn now while I am back at home, and look forward to going back to Spain or another Spanish speaking country in the future, being much better than I was the last time I arrived!

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2 Responses to “The Dos and Don´ts of learning Spanish in Spain”

  1. Shannon says:

    It is so true that avoiding other English speakers is paramount to success if you’re going to tackle a new language in a foreign country. I think that’s why study abroad programs are so flawed, since you end up crammed into a dorm with a bunch of other Americans for the duration of your stay!

  2. Raphy says:

    Were is that place were you can learn Spanish for free in Sevilla?? 😉

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